J. M. Coetzee, A Life in Writing

Jeffrey Errington reviews a new biography
J. M. Coetzee
Jeffrey Errington (The Quarterly Conversation):
J. M. Coetzee, A Life in Writing by J. C. Kannemeyer is a wonderful book that explodes more than a few myths. One myth that I used to day dream about entailed a breakfast meeting between Jorge Luis Borges and Coetzee during their time at the University of Texas, Austin (unfortunately, for my imagination, the years do not line up). It’s a blistering hot day and beads of sweat form along Borges’ bald patch that glisten beneath the hot sun. A young Coetzee has to help him find his table and then reads aloud the entire menu. Borges decides on a cowboy’s breakfast (chili beans, eggs, and toast with coffee), Coetzee gets pancakes and coffee. Coetzee sits in awe of the accomplished writer before him. My day dream continued as I saw these two provincials who found a new way out of the stultified tradition of high modernism (a stultification that Coetzee captures so well in Youth). After their food arrives they start to discuss the use of footnotes in Gibbon’s histories, the banalities of living in a police state, far from any cultured metropole and, finally, breaking out in laughter over the absurdity of the word realism. [Read More]

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